[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/30/art.palin.928.jpg caption="Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin delivered a humorous speech at the Gridiron Dinner last December."]Washington (CNN) – Sarah Palin's political action committee doled out tens of thousands of dollars last year to Republican consulting firms and donations to GOP candidates, according to the PAC's end-of-year filing with the Federal Election Commission.
But Sarah PAC also paid one Democrat $14,000 for what the FEC report terms "Consulting, Communication, Speech."
That Democrat was Eric Schnure, a former speechwriter for Al Gore, who was hired by Palin to craft her humorous speech to the Gridiron Dinner in Washington last December.
Schnure, a speechwriting veteran who recently signed on with the communications consulting firm Dewey Square Group, calls himself a "proud Democrat." But Schnure said he had no problem helping a Republican – even one as polarizing as Palin – with a speech designed to make people laugh.
"I think humor is one of the last bastions of bipartisanship," Schnure told CNN. "She elicits strong opinions on both sides of the aisle, but I think most people in Washington are savvy about these things. And they understand these humor events have a special place."
Still, Schnure said he has received a fair amount of ribbing from fellow Democrats – including his wife – for lending a hand to Palin.
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias on Tuesday night emerged as the Democratic Party's choice to fight for President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.
Giannoulias will now take on moderate five-term Republican Rep. Mark Kirk in the November mid-term elections. Kirk won the GOP primary handily Tuesday night.
Political analysts have said it might be an uphill climb for the Democrats to hold onto the seat that Obama vacated when he became president last year.
Giannoulias' opponent, former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman, conceded in a phone call to him about 10:40 p.m.
Tuesday's primaries included competitive races in both parties for senatorial, gubernatorial and several congressional seats. There were also contests for attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer.
But most of the attention focused on the Senate race.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senior Obama administration officials revealed late Tuesday they've secretly gained the cooperation of family members of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in order to help get the alleged Christmas Day airline bomber to provide actionable intelligence that could help prevent future terror attempts on U.S. soil.
The revelation is part of an aggressive attempt by the White House to push back on Republican claims the Obama administration mishandled the terror investigation by reading Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights shortly after he began cooperating with investigators. After giving the U.S. some information in the early stages of the probe AbdulMutallab stopped talking about his attempt to blow up an airliner with a bomb hidden in his underwear.
The senior administration officials disclosed that on January 1st, just days after the attempted terror attack, two FBI agents secretly flew to Lagos, Nigeria, to meet with officials of the CIA and the State Department and begin an extensive investigation to try and work with AbdulMutallab's family to gain his cooperation. The U.S. officials later traveled to Nigeria's capital city, Abuja, and eventually gained the trust of two unidentified relatives of the suspect.
On January 17, the FBI agents secretly flew back to the U.S. with the two relatives in order to work with the suspect. One senior Obama administration official said the family members privately conveyed to the suspect they "had complete trust in the U.S. system" and they believed he "would be treated fairly" by the Obama administration.
Washington (CNNMoney.com) - The fate of President Obama's latest proposal to rein in banks was thrown into doubt on Tuesday after it got a chilly reception from key lawmakers.
The Senate Banking Committee grilled Obama adviser Paul Volcker who has, for months, been championing a proposal to curtail so-called proprietary trading.
The aim is to stop big banks from making trades on their own accounts, especially since commercial banks have access to funds back-stopped by the government.
President Obama, in formally announcing the proposal last month, dubbed it the "Volcker rule."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/30/art.getty.reid.closeup.jpg caption="Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the White House on Tuesday to 'lay off Las Vegas' after President Obama slighted the city during a riff about government spending."]Washington (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the White House on Tuesday to "lay off Las Vegas" after President Obama slighted the city during a riff about government spending.
"You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage," Obama said at a New Hampshire town hall Tuesday. "You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. And it's time your government did the same."
That remark sparked a flurry of condemnations from Nevada Republicans, including Danny Tarkanian and Sue Lowden, two Republicans hoping to unseat Reid this November.
"It is indefensible for Harry Reid to once again sit on his hands when President Obama continues to bash Las Vegas and Nevada's economic engine," Lowden said in a statement e-mailed out to reporters Tuesday afternoon.
But Reid, it turns out, was already on the case.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/02/art.duncan.file.gi.jpg caption=" Education Secretary Arne Duncan apologized Tuesday for comments made last week."]Washington (CNN) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spent the last couple of days backpedaling from comments he made Sunday suggesting Hurricane Katrina was good for New Orleans' failing schools. But, while he's apologizing for poor word choice, his comments echo a truth spoken by many in New Orleans.
"It was a dumb thing to say and I apologize," Duncan told CNN Tuesday.
In a Sunday broadcast of TV One's Washington Watch with Roland Martin, Duncan was asked about the progress New Orleans schools have made since Katrina hit in 2005.
"This is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest," Duncan replied. "I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that 'we have to do better.'"
Washington (CNN) - Another attempted terrorist attack on the United States in coming months is "certain," the heads of the major U.S intelligence agencies told a Senate committee Tuesday.
Al Qaeda remains the top security threat to the United States, but a growing cybersecurity threat also must be addressed by the U.S. intelligence community, the heads of the CIA, the FBI and other agencies told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Asked by committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein of the likelihood of another attempted terror attack on the United States in the next three to six months, the officials agreed with Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair's initial answer of "certain."
While none of the intelligence chiefs, who included CIA Director Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller and others, cited a specific pending threat, their testimony made clear that an evolving al Qaeda remains their top concern.
Washington (CNN) – Congressional Democrats are increasingly concerned about the President's plan to bring Guantanamo detainees to the United States for trial, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to block it.
Eighteen senators, including two Democrats and one Independent, unveiled a bill Tuesday to withhold funding the President requested to try terror suspects in civilian courts.
"It's an unusual thing we're doing here," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT. "We are trying to use Congress' power of the purse to stop these trials."
The move comes a day after the President requested in his budget a boost in homeland security funding to help pay for the transfer and trials of detainees on U.S. soil.
One of the Democratic co-sponsors is Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who is facing a tough re-election battle this year.